Johnstown team seeking $24.4 million federal grant for Train Station upgrades, other projects

·3 min read

Jun. 11—The City of Johnstown plans to make one of its largest grant requests ever during the upcoming Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity funding round.

City Council, on Wednesday, voted unanimously — minus an absent member — to submit a proposal for $24,447,764 through the U.S. Department of Transportation program designed to invest in road, rail, transit and port projects.

Johnstown made a similar pitch to the federal government in 2020 that was rejected.

This year's application, which must be formally submitted by July 17, was created through the work of the city, Cambria County Planning Commission, Cambria County Transit Authority, Johnstown Area Heritage Association, Vision Together 2025 and Greater Johnstown Regional Partnership.

"This is certainly a community-driven grant application," John Dubnansky, Johnstown's community and economic development director, said.

Johnstown, a city that has been in Pennsylvania's Act 47 program for distressed municipalities since 1992 and where one-third of the citizens live in poverty, will request a waiver of matching funds.

"Normally there would be a matching amount of funds that are required for this, but based on the city's current demographics and other factors, we can request a waiver," Dubnansky said.

The application, according to Vision Together 2025 President and CEO Mike Tedesco, will include approximately:

—$11.3 million for rehabbing the Johnstown Train Station

—$880,000 for upgrades to the Inclined Plane

—$3.6 million for modernizing the CamTran Downtown Intermodal Transportation Center

—$5.7 million for downtown greenways beautification

—$3 million for urban connectivity trails

"There's a lot of really great place-making in here, and all the projects are just wonderful," Tedesco said.

The plans are part of an overall proposed Iron to Arts Corridor, which already has $24,547,500 secured in state, local, philanthropic, federal and Amtrak funding. I2A is a project to link together Conemaugh Borough, downtown, Prospect, Minersville and Cambria City with art, trails, transportation and beatification.

The goal would be to create a "symbiotic relationship" between the natural elements and local businesses, according to Tedesco.

"Tying that all together will create a very significant market-driven opportunity for Johnstown small businesses, the tax base, quality of life in general — because locals can use it, too," Tedesco said. "It's a very meaningful way to get Johnstown on the map."

Johnstown's century-old, JAHA-owned train station, located on Walnut Street, is the proposed hub with visions of an improved stop for rail riders, farmers' market, bike rental and information center. It recently became home to the Artist-Blacksmith's Association of North America.

Amtrak plans to make Americans with Disabilities Act improvements to the station.

The cost for the overall renovation project was hoped to be a few million dollars. Now, though, it is expected to be much costlier than expected.

"Turns out that's a really expensive project," Burkert said. "We were able to get an estimate. PennDOT provided our first really detailed construction estimate that shocked pretty much everybody — came in at $17 million. Far exceeded previous estimates."

Recipients of the competitive RAISE grants are expected to be announced this fall.

"It's one of the biggest grants that the city can get," Greater Johnstown Regional Partnership Chairman Mark Pasquerilla said. "We had a good application last year, and I think this year's application is going to be very strong — God willing a winner."

In 2020, the federal government awarded 70 projects across 44 states when the program was known as Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development.